No. 92, October 14, 2008

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers
Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak

Table of Contents








The importance of sustainable river and wetland restoration

Water is essential to life. The lifestyle to which we've become accustomed depends upon having plenty of cheap, clean water available. Rivers, streams and wetlands are the collectors, filters, conveyors, and storage compartments for our nation's fresh water supply. Damage to healthy stream banks and riparian vegetation can diminish key components of the water cycle, including interception of water by plants, infiltration of water into the soil and groundwater, and evapotranspiration of water taken up from the soil and transpired from plants. Some 70 percent of urban water quality problems are the result of contaminated storm water runoff. Agricultural runoff can similarly degrade rural streams and wetlands, and agricultural runoff has been linked to areas of low productivity in our oceans such as the Gulf Dead Zone. Globally, clean potable water is running out. Water use is up an estimated 209 percent in the US since 1950 and 36 states anticipate local, regional or state-wide water shortages in the next five years. Much of our water use is hidden. The USGS reports that a typical American meal of hamburger, fries and a soft drink, uses about 1,500 gallons of water - enough to fill a small swimming pool.

For more information on sustainable stream and wetland renewal, visit

(E-Wire Press Release, "The Importance of Sustainable River and Wetland Restoration,", 30 July 2008.)


Truckee River restoration project breaks ground

A restoration project of the Truckee River, designed to improve the clarity of Lake Tahoe, calls for the construction of a 4,000-foot-long winding river channel to replace the existing straighter channel. A three-year, nearly $8 million restoration of a city-owned section of the Upper Truckee River will undo some of the historic damage to the river, including harm done when the river was diverted as part of a runway expansion in 1968. "The deeper, wider and straighter channel has a greater capacity to transport sediment and provides poor aquatic habitat," according to a project description from the California Tahoe Conservancy, which is providing most of the funding for the project. The Upper Truckee is the largest tributary to Lake Tahoe and is a major source of fine sediment that can cloud Tahoe's clarity. The Upper Truckee currently overflows its banks about once every three to five years, but with the new, lower floodplain, the river should overflow its banks every one-and-half to three years. The more frequent overflow will allow the floodplain to absorb more sediments and nutrients before they reach Lake Tahoe.

(Jensen, Adam, "Truckee River restoration project breaks ground," Nevada Appeal News Service,, 30 July 2008.)

Update: The steelhead of Alameda Creek

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is involved in another steelhead restoration discussion in the Alameda Creek watershed, centered around the utility's Calaveras Dam. The dam's reservoir holds about 97,000 acre-feet of water, but since being declared seismically unsound in 2001, it has operated at about one-third capacity. Now plans are under way to build a replacement dam downstream and fill the reservoir to its former limit. The proposed construction has sparked debate between state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and SFPUC. In May, the National Marine Fisheries Service declared that the project would have to be evaluated for its impact on steelhead spawning, reversing an Army Corps of Engineers determination that the new dam would have no effect. "It's an important win," says Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. "To embark on construction of this magnitude and not allow [steelhead] access to the creek is just shortsighted." Currently, SFPUC withholds about three quarters of the creek's flow, and operating the dam at full capacity would hold back nearly all of the winter surges critical to a successful spawning run. As for the steelhead, they return each year, and in spring 2008 a pair spawned successfully for the first time in half a century.

(Carroll, David, "The Steelhead of Alameda Creek," Bay Nature,, Jul-Sep 2008.)

Kayaking the Klamath while dodging the dams

Klamath salmon are approaching extinction, thanks mainly to six dams that span the upper river. But things might change dramatically if the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement becomes reality - four of the Klamath dams could be slated for removal. It would be a river-restoration project unprecedented in scale. To see the unfolding Klamath story first-hand, Tyler Williams kayaked the entire length of the river, starting at the aptly named Spring Creek where boiling pots of sand danced on the bottom of the creek. Water gushed into the stream from below, clean and beautiful. But several hours later, the scene had changed when he arrived at a fixture of the southern Oregon landscape - Klamath Lake. A rank odor wafted on the air, and billions of tiny green algae flecks floated on the surface of the water. After paddling only 10 miles, he found himself world away from the bubbling purity of Spring Creek. The Klamath is a river serving many masters: Farmers demand water for irrigation, Indians fight for their share of the dwindling salmon, and ratepayers flip light switches from the dam-supported power grid. The Klamath embodies all that is at stake regarding water issues in the West.

(Williams, Tyler, "Kayaking the Klamath while dodging the dams," High Country News,, 30 June 2008.)

Update: Klamath Dam removal advocates train for direct action against PacifiCorp

Advocates for Klamath Dam removal are working with the Indigenous Peoples' Power Project to provide direct action workshops and skills trainings as they increase pressure Warren Buffett to remove his fish killing dams on the Klamath River. According to a statement from the Klamath Justice Coalition, the direct action training sessions aim "to empower locals and provide additional tactics to pressure Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp to remove the lower four Klamath River dams." In July, PacifiCorp sent a letter to the State of California withdrawing its water quality permit application, surprising activists who were planning to attend hearings regarding the permit the following week. Some activists were hoping this move was a sign that an agreement between the utility and state and federal agencies over dam removal would be reached soon. If the dams come down, more than 300 miles of the Klamath would be opened to anadromous fish for the first time in more than 90 years. On September 18, the Klamath Justice Coalition will hold their "Day of Action Against PacifiCorp" in Portland, Oregon, where the utility is headquartered.

(Bacher, Dan, "Klamath Dam Removal Advocates Train for Direct Action Against PacifiCorp," San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 31 July 2008.)


**Gold Hill Diversion Dam, Rogue River, OR**
Removal of the second biggest barrier to fish on the Rogue River

After seven years of negotiating among local and state officials, work has begun on removing a diversion dam in Gold Hill - considered the second biggest barrier to fish on the Rogue River. Salem-based Slayden Construction Group and River Design Group Inc. are removing the structure as part of a $1.2 million contract. In-water work began in June. Seven years after the state first ordered the city to limit its diversion of Rogue River water or face fines of up to $1,000 a day, city officials have worked to secure grant funding and coordinate a project most larger cities would scoff at, said Craig Harper, water resources program manager for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. " The city completed an extensive water intake relocation project upriver from the diversion dam in May 2006. The final stages of removal of the Gold Hill Diversion Dam took place over several weeks in July.

For more information about this and other Oregon river restoration projects, visit WaterWatch of Oregon at

(Pollock, Buffy, "Fish barrier is coming out; After seven years, diversion dam is being removed in Gold Hill," The Mail Tribune,, 24 June 2008.)

**Marmot Dam, Sandy River, OR**
Update: Oregon's Sandy River successfully reinvents itself after dam removal

As dams go, Marmot Dam on the Sandy River wasn't huge. But now that it's gone, the impact is turning out to be enormous. Some had worried that sediment piled behind the dam would suffocate salmon and block tributaries downstream. It did nothing of the sort. In fact, the river has since redistributed the equivalent of about 150 Olympic-size swimming pools full of sediment - without a hiccup.  "Never has this much sediment been released at once into such an active and hungry river," said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist with the US Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. He has studied the dam removal and given his Marmot Dam talk conferences from Sacramento to Venice to China. "There's a global interest right now in river restoration," Grant said. "Marmot is certainly one of the best-documented and most spectacular examples of dam removal in the sense that the river was allowed to process the material itself." Though some officials had worried that the sediment would linger and pose an obstacle to fish, federally protected coho salmon were swimming upriver the day after the dam crumbled. Salmon spawned in the river as they always have.

For more information about marmot Dam removal, including photos and video, visit

(Milstein, Michael, "Oregon's Sandy River successfully reinvents itself after dam removal; Scientists are impressed how fast the river is digesting Marmot Dam sediment," The Oregonian, 30 July 2008.)

Update: Conservation and fishing groups file complaint against Bush plan for Columbia Basin

The Bush administration's latest plan for balancing the lives of endangered salmon against operation of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia Basin has been challenged by conservation and fishing groups. The complaint filed in US District Court in Portland alleges that the plan issued in May arbitrarily and capriciously ignores the best available science, is not appreciably different from one in 2004 declared illegal by US District Judge James Redden, and relies too heavily on restoring habitat and reforming hatchery operations. Salmon advocates contend that the cheapest and most effective action to save Columbia Basin salmon is to remove four dams on the lower Snake River in Eastern Washington -- something President Bush has promised will not happen. Last year, Redden warned that he would turn over the job of restoring Columbia Basin salmon to an independent panel of experts if the government failed again.

(Barnard, Jeff, " US plan to balance Northwest salmon and dams is challenged; Conservation and fishing groups file complaint in court," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,, 17 June 2008.)


Storm solutions: Addressing dams must be priority (Helen Sarakinos, River Alliance of Wisconsin)

The ongoing rains and flash floods in southern Wisconsin are bringing national attention to dams and flooding in this state and throughout the Midwestern US. With climate experts predicting more severe weather in the coming years and with thousands of documented dams in the state (and many others undocumented), dams in Wisconsin (and beyond) will need to be better managed to stay out of national headlines. The facts are disquieting: Our dams are getting old. As of 2000, 42% of dams in Wisconsin's rivers were older than 50 years. That percentage will grow to 78% by 2020. Yet many of the dams have not been inspected regularly, state funds to help with repair or removal of old dams have dried up and the density of homes and people along shorelines is increasing. Increased flooding highlights the inescapable truth that dams also have big costs: costs to the rivers that are blocked and degraded, costs to the owners who must invest time and money to maintain and operate them properly and costs to property and human life when the dams fail. When the floodwaters recede and the damage to dams has been assessed, there needs to be thoughtful public conversation in communities to weigh the economic and other benefits these dams provide against the cost to the health of our rivers and the pocketbooks of communities and taxpayers.

Helen Sarakinos is director of River Restoration Programs River Alliance of Wisconsin, based in Madison. Visit the River Alliance of Wisconsin at:

(Sarakinos, Helen, "Storm solutions: Addressing dams must be priority," Journal Sentinel,, 12 June 2008.)

Groups from states along the Mississippi seek limits on pollution

Groups in nine states petitioned the federal government in July to set and enforce pollution standards in the Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. The petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency followed an announcement that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the second largest to date at 8,000 square miles. The dead zone is an area of water where oxygen levels are too low to support marine life, caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows largely from fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi, and then into the gulf. Organizations from states bordering the Mississippi River - Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin - said the EPA has dropped the ball in enforcing a 1998 rule, which required states to set standards for pollution in the Mississippi by 2003. States have been slow to adopt such standards, prompting the groups to ask the EPA to intervene. "Our feeling is there has been a dead zone at the EPA almost as big as in the Gulf of Mexico," said Jeff Grimes, assistant director of the water resources program at the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network.

(Crumb, Michael J., "Groups seek limits on Mississippi, Gulf pollution," Associated Press,, 30 July 2008.)


**Gruendyke Dam, Musconetcong River, NJ**
Dam removal on the Musconetcong River makes it cooler for trout

The long-awaited removal of an old dam on the Musconetcong River near might already be letting the river run cooler to the benefit of local trout. Brian Cowden, Trout Unlimited's Musconectcong Home Rivers Initiative Coordinator, said the June 15 breach of the former impoundment seemed to cause a significant decrease in the Musky's temperature downstream of the project. "We've seen, this week alone, an 8-degree drop in the water temperature," said Cowden. After the water behind the dam was released, the volunteers found themselves standing before an eyesore. "There are hundreds of tires in there as well as metal debris and glass," said Cowden. Cowden said the state Division of Fish and Wildlife is funding the disposal of the tires. Cowden's goal, and that of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, is to remove as many Musconetcong River impoundments as possible. A smaller dam upstream is next to go and the groups are working toward getting rid of some very large structures farther downstream. The next project will not only keep the river cooler but also help the fish spawn.

(Aun, Fred J., "Dam removal makes it cooler for trout," The Star Ledger,, 22 June 2008.)

Atlantic Salmon restoration efforts face grim realities

Stocks of wild salmon in the North Pacific are in trouble. Spring passed in Massachusetts without returning more than a handful of wild Atlantic Salmon. The Connecticut River saw just 132 salmon return, nearly all of which were captured at either of two dams by biologists working for the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Restoration program. The fish are bred at hatcheries so the young can be released back into the river, hopefully to grow, go to sea, and return (others were tagged and released upstream of the dams to breed naturally). This program has been in place for 41 years, with the hope of returning salmon to the state in healthy numbers. Each spring, volunteers fan out around the region, dipping buckets full of juvenile 'fry' salmon (one to two million each year) into 37 of the river's tributaries and hope for the best. But it's an effort that's been slim on returns so far. The Merrimack River near New Hampshire also saw few salmon returning (114), despite water quality improvements and habitat restoration efforts. Unknown factors include how many of these salmon are being caught at sea, how well they'll weather the warming of the Connecticut's tributaries due to a heating climate, and how they'd do without the dams.

(Hoffner, Erik, "Atlantic Salmon restoration efforts face grim realities," Grist Magazine,, 9 July 2008.)


Aquatic life flourishes in Cahaba with dam gone

Alabama's first dam removal to save aquatic life, a former concrete dam serving as a truck bridge was removed in October 2004, has restored populations of various species. Once a year, biologists sit on the shoals of the Cahaba River, counting snails and mussels within assigned plots. Scientists saw changes immediately after removal, but this year's survey was especially eventful. "Where there were virtually no snails, now there are thousands," said Paul Freeman, a freshwater ecologist for The Nature Conservancy of Alabama. The Cahaba is one of the richest rivers on the continent for snails, mussels and fish. Scientists say that only the Amazon Basin or Asia's Mekong Delta rival the rivers of Alabama in terms of number and diversity of animals living in them. Dams constructed on most of the state's large rivers have killed millions of snails and mussels. In the 1960s, a coal company built a six-foot-high concrete dam across the Cahaba, blocking fish from moving upstream, and creating a deep pool unsuitable for mussels and snails. More than 131 species of fish and more than 75 species of freshwater mussels and snails have been observed in the Cahaba, including five fish and 11 mollusk species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

(Bouma, Katherine, "Aquatic life flourishes in Cahaba with dam gone," The Birmingham News,, 24 June 2008.)

Shaping the Greenway -- Projects along the Wolf River

It bubbles up from a spring-fed pond in the Mississippi hills, then settles into West Tennessee swamps, where lilies bloom in the open water and the rat-tat-tat sounds from woodpeckers echo through a labyrinth of cypress and tupelo trees. By the time it reaches Memphis, the Wolf River has transformed into a wider, more turbulent stream lined with high, crumbling banks that stand like parapets next to dried-up oxbow lakes. A mere 90 miles long, the Wolf reflects the ecology, history and growth patterns of the entire region in its mud- and tannin-tinted water. Through the 1950s, the river was so foul and malodorous from sewage that it was routed away from downtown Memphis in the 1960s, by a corps flood-control project that widened and straightened the river. But that disastrous project let to head-cutting, in which the river's altered flow caused erosion that worked its way upstream. The banks caved in and the river's bed deepened, drying up wetlands adjacent to the river. Now there's a massive restoration effort in motion. Using state and federal grants and spending up to $1 million per mile, local agencies and conservation groups are acquiring and protecting land and developing networks of trails, boat ramps and other facilities.

(Charlier, Tom, "Shaping the Greenway -- Projects Along the Wolf River, the Culmination of a Decades-Long Dream By Local Agencies and Conservationists, Make Steady Progress,", 16 June 2008.)

Florida water activist presses for water and climate protection at River Action Day in DC

Jennifer Hecker attended the Fifth Annual River Action Day in Washington, DC on June 18, to lobby for projects instrumental in protecting Southwest Florida's waterways and wildlife. Hecker, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Natural Resources Policy Manager, met with Senators and Congressmen asking them to support the Clean Water Restoration Act, which restores federal authority over wetlands critical to the survival of Southwest Florida's wading birds. Hecker also asked lawmakers to approve the Climate Security Act, which establishes a federal program to dramatically reduce the nation's air pollution. While not directly a water resource protection initiative, climate change would exacerbate saltwater intrusion and flooding. The Climate Security Act would help maintain the ecological integrity of coastal water resource areas. Furthermore, Hecker requested more funding for Everglades restoration. This year's River Action Day is particularly special because it coincides with the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Ninety activists from around the nation, including Hecker, participated in River Action Day. The event is sponsored by American Rivers, which in 2006 named the Caloosahatchee River one the of nation's "Ten Most Endangered Rivers."

Learn more about River Action Day in Washington, DC (the next one will take place on June 2, 2009) at:

(Theriault, Vivian Vedel, "Your News: Key Southwest Florida environmental projects discussed during annual River Action Day in DC," Marco News,, 18 June 2008.)